The last person to escape the fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower has told how he was on the brink of suicide before being rescued.
Blind pensioner Elpidio Bonifacio braced himself for the end shortly before 8am, by which point the inferno had been raging for seven hours.
He had been seen waving a white towel from his window as he pleaded for help from his 11th-floor flat.
Mr Bonifacio (circled, in red, during the fire) was driven to the brink of suicide because he was so terrified of burning to death in the west London inferno
The pensioner (pictured) became known as ‘The Man in the Window’ in the weeks that followed the blaze and still suffers flashbacks
Mr Bonifacio has shared his harrowing experience for the first time in an interview with
‘I was ready to die,’ he said. ‘I just let go. I had lost hope. I could hear the crackling flames in the sitting room. I said to myself, “It’s finished, this is the end,” and I prepared myself to die. “Lord, into your hands I commend my spirit” I said.”
But emergency services got to him, making him the last person to be rescued from the West London fire, which killed 72 people in June 2017.
Firefighters pulled him from the tower with moments to spare. Mr Bonifacio had been close to committing suicide by overdosing or leaping out of the window.
He and wife Rosita had been living at the block for 36 years when the fire took hold. The pensioner is partially sighted and registered as blind.
Rosita was working a late shift on the night and had left her husband asleep in the two-bed council flat.
She frantically tried to call her husband as soon as she heard that flames were spreading through the building.
But Mr Bonifacio – who is in his seventies – ignored the phone and continued sleeping.
The fire killed 72 people and Mr Bonifacio was the last person to be pulled from Grenfell Tower (pictured)
It rang a second time at about 1am and he realised something must be wrong. When he answered the phone, his wife told him about the fire and instructed him to put wet towels around the doors.
The fire had started minutes before in the kitchen of a fourth-floor flat. But a refurbishment, which included an additional three floors, meant that Mr Bonifacio was unable to escape unaided.
His son, Gordon, also called him to say the firefighters were instructing residents to stay put.
The terrified pensioner was left waving a towel for about an hour in the hope of attracting attention.
He then tried to drag his mattress over to the window with the idea of pushing it out of the window and then hoping he could jump onto it. In his statement to the inquiry into the blaze, he wrote that the mattress was too bulky to move out of the window.
As the hours passed and his flat grew hotter, Mr Bonifacio said he ‘began to feel hopeless’ and believed he was ‘destined to die in the fire’.
‘The thought of burning to death was horrific,’ he said. ‘I was petrified. I started to consider taking my own life. I took a handful of medication . . . and started to psych myself up to take [the pills] so if the fire was to eventually catch me, I wouldn’t feel it. I wanted to numb the pain.’
When his mirror shattered due to the heat, the devout Roman Catholic started to say his final prayers.
It was then that he heard the sound of a firefighter’s hose and opened his bedroom door to see five standing in his house.
As he left the building, Mr Bonifacio noticed that flames had taken hold in his kitchen and living room and were creeping toward his bedroom, where he’d been hiding.
He is haunted by the belief that he may have stepped over his neighbours’ remains as he headed out of the tower.
By the time he’d escaped, Mr Bonifacio had inhaled so much smoke that he had to stay in hospital for a month.
At one point he reached such a low point that he told his wife to ‘let them bury me , take me to the cemetery’.
He hopes that reliving his trauma in the form of a written statement to the inquiry will help prevent similar tragedies.
He and his wife have undergone counselling and Mr Bonifacio says that he still suffers flashbacks.
The survivor said that the blaze has left him feeling ‘dejected’ and as if he is ‘melting away’.